Saturday, March 2, 2013

Stop Trying To Remake Email and The Todo List

I recently came across an article by Tom Tunguz where he rants a bit about the failure of current TODO lists. It reminded me of Watkins' article about Mailbox which in turn, reminded me of one of Paul Grahams posts about email in general.

Whenever I read someone commenting about the need to remake email or the todo list... one of those "You're doing it wrong" memes pops into my mind.

Email and TODO lists are perfect the way they are, if you're unhappy with them, it's because you're using it wrong.

Email is a communication tool. It's not a TODO list, somewhere to store or share documents, a way to share pictures or a way to replace fast communication (e.g. a phone call, texting or an IM platform).

If you need to...

...learn how to use email, read Getting Things Done. Hint: it's about either acting on it immediately, pushing it to a specific todo list, delegating it.

...learn how to use a TODO list, again, read Getting Things Done. Hint: create many todo lists where each list is a topic or a project. Also, a 'waiting for list' is an amazing idea.

...share documents, use google docs to create, edit, upload and share them.

...share pictures, think of the context which you want to share them and use that platform; examples include Dropbox, Facebook or Flickr.

Of course, this isn't really the problem is it? The problem seems to be how to tie it all together. This is different for everyone; however, I'll explain how I do I and perhaps it will help someone else.

When I get an email....

I read it right away and only once. If it's related to a particular project, I use Google tasks to link the email to a particular tasks list. This is great because I can click on the TODO item and it will allow me to go back to the specific email which I linked it to. If it's something I need to do by a certain date, I set a 'due date' along with it. This is automatically linked to my Google calendar and this my phone. On the date that it's due, my phone will automatically alert me. Of course, I can also add more info and descriptions to the TODO as well.

Here is a picture to demonstrate:

So guys, stop complaining about what's wrong with email or TODOs. They work amazingly as is and don't need to be over-engineered. Really, how does a shopping TODO list which automatically alters me of what to get at the grocery store help me? If I go to a grocery store, it's because I know I need to pick something up. I just don't pop by to see if my TODO list notifies me of what to do.